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Anacostia River Trail Extension and Proposed CSX Truck Transfer Facility

The proposed CSX truck facility in Beltsville would be a big setback for the recent Anacostia River improvements.

Good News and Bad News for the Anacostia River and Trails

Good News. On November 4, a large gathering of local and national officials celebrated the completion of a new section of the Anacostia River Trails, running from the Bladensburg marina to the Washington, D.C. line. Groundbreaking on the D.C. section is expected next year.

When the trail is complete, it will run all the way from Lake Artemesia and Berwyn Heights down the rivers past to Nationals Park! This will provide an easy, flat bike commuting route for many of us in Greenbelt and College Park to Capitol Hill, the Mall area and the SW D.C. employment sites.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, III hosted the event with Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Secretary Salazar spoke of the tremendous environmental improvements along the river. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called for an end to the defeatism about doing great things in the U.S. and called the restoration of the Anacostia a “great example of the lasting benefits transportation projects can bring to a community by connecting people to jobs and schools, encouraging economic development, and protecting the environment.” 

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray commented on his desire for continuous bike route connections throughout the city, and made special mention of the Anacostia River Trail's potential to help integrate the neighborhoods east of the river with the rest of the city. He and County Executive Baker commented on the trail's potential to allow D.C. residents and Prince George’s county residents to get back and forth across the border for jobs and recreation. 

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley spoke of using environmental and transport vision to unite communities throughout the region, and announced a $10 million dollar program to connect trails in the state, and a $1 million program specifically to connect trails in Maryland.

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin spoke of the tremendous progress in the port towns surrounding the Bladensburg park and of need to continue great accomplishments like the environmental and recreational improvements along the river. He strongly defended the environmental and Transportation Enhancements funding used on the Anacostia River Project.

Despite the grey skies, my handlebar video of the ceremonial ride turned out OK.  Yes, that’s National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, who I nearly bumped into looking at the map at 4:08 and that’s D.C. Mayor Gray on the CaBi share bike with a smile on his face at 8:57. 

I had a chance to briefly mention the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis (WB&A) bike trail to County Executive Baker. (Bike commuting advocates are trying to get this trail connected to the Anacostia River Trails in the district and with trails in Anne Arundel County. This would enhance bike commuting possibilities from the Seabrook and Bowie areas to the New Carrollton Metro and all the way to the district, and to the north toward Fort Meade and the BWI employment areas.)

There’s more coverage of the event here, including links to local newscasts covering the event: http://www.thewashcycle.com/2011/11/anacostia-river-trails-slowly-making-progress.html

Bad News. The state of Maryland is considering building a truck transfer depot on 70 acres of wood and wetlands upstream from the Anacostia River system. The proposed Baltimore-Washington Rail Intermodal Facility will be a 70-acre industrial site where trains and trucks exchange large cargo containers of goods being shipped all over the country. The state of Maryland needs to build a new one somewhere south of Baltimore's Howard Street Tunnel to be a part of a new transport system using "double-stack" train cars (These can carry cargo stacked higher than normal trains.)

The state is considering four possible locations for this new facility, and one of them is in Beltsville, bounded by Sunnyside Avenue on the south, Edmonston/Kenilworth Avenue (201) on the East, Powder Mill Road/Cook Road on the north, and the CSX rail line to the west. Local cyclists will recognize this as immediately adjacent to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) campus, a popular local biking area.

Construction of the intermodal facility will have the following impact on the area:  A variance would be obtained to destroy wetlands and forested flood plains currently designated at permanent open space by law. Six private homes on the property would be displaced, and quality of life for another 140 or so homes within a quarter mile would be impacted by noise, light, pollution, and vibration.

MD 201 and U.S. Route 1 would likely see about 350 truck trips a day directly related to the facility, which would degrade both the road surfaces and the quality of the ride (or drive) for other road users.

All three of the other sites being considered are closer to the port of Baltimore and already designated as industrial sites.

The scenic nature of Route 201 between Cherrywood Lane and Powder Mill Road would be threatened, and you can bet that after a year or two, CSX would lobby for an expansion of the road to four lanes because traffic is worse! A road expansion, of course, would put more pressure for development.

We don’t need any more soul-sucking, traffic clogged, pedestrian- and bike-hostile arterial strip development roads in our area! We already have plenty, thank you very much! Beside, MDOT finally got the permanent lane painting fixed on 201 (the temporary lane paint was all squiggly and weird).

I’m not necessarily opposed to new development in our area, whether it’s industrial, residential or commercial. But I do think we need to attract development that adds to our quality of life, not development that reduces it.

I’ll admit, I may not know all the details on the proposed CSX site development, but right now, the Beltsville site does not make sense to me at all. We don’t need hundreds more trucks on our local roads, and we shouldn’t clear wetlands and woods upstream of the rapidly improving Anacostia tributaries. Truck transfer stations should be nearer to highways in designated industrial areas.

There's more information about the intermodal facility project.

And there's information on the community efforts to the proposed Beltsville site.

The Maryland Department of Transportation will be holding several public workshops in November. The information for the next workshop for the Beltsville area will is below.

Residents of Beltsville are not the only ones affected by this proposal — all of us who live, drive or bike in the area, and all of us who support the continued clean up of the Anacostia Tributaries are affected.  I hope lots of residents of Greenbelt, Laurel, College Park, and the downstream communities along the Anacostia River tributaries (Riverdale Park, Hyattsville, the port towns, and even the district) also show up and make their opinions known.

Monday, November 21, 2011
7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Beltsville Academy
4300 Wicomico Avenue
Beltsville, Md. 20705

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jeff Lemieux November 15, 2011 at 06:54 PM
The DOT just sent their slides for the public meeting in Beltsville on Thursday: http://www.mdot.maryland.gov/Planning/ICTF/Documents/Resources/Related_Projects/FINAL_BOARDS_with_Maps_111411.pdf
Bill Smith November 16, 2011 at 10:02 PM
There will be a lot more than 350 trucks a day. The 350 trucks a day is based on the number of trucks currently leaving the SeaGrit Marine Terminal for delivery in the ‘local’ area. What CSX is not saying is that all the containers that come off the ships at SeaGrit that are going to be shipped by CSX have to get to the new Intermodal Site and CSX has no control on how they get there. They could all come by truck. This could mean an additional unknown number (1000?) trucks a day driving down from the Port of Baltimore bringing containers just of the ships to this new CSX freight yard. Months ago one of the people from MDOT is quoted as there will be 960 trucks a day using the site. And remember each truck has to come and go. So you will see each truck twice – once coming and once going.

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